Lacrosse: Syracuse Opens Diplomatic Relations with Statesmen

Nuts. Hugged. via 3.bp.blogspot.com

The Hall of Fame.  That's where you're putting these headlines, babycakes.  An honorary plaque would be fine, but I'd prefer a bust.

Fun fact: I took the LSAT's at Hobart in the fall of 2001. 

Second fun fact: Geneva is like Cleveland if Cleveland just totally gave up and wore sweatpants and ate Cheetos all day.

Third fun fact: When you talk about lacrosse dominance, you'd be silly to not mention the Statesmen.  Hobart holds 15 NCAA titles.  Of those titles, 12 were earned from 1980-1991 (!!!).  That's dominance, son.

Yet, despite this history, Hobart in 2011 isn't the Hobart of old.  The Statesmen are wallowing in NCAA sanctions.  They're only a few years removed from the insanity that was an effort to move the school back to Division III.  And, to top it all off, they're 5-6 and playing only for pride.

This is why tonight is a dangerous, dangerous night for John Desko and Associates.

It's an old-school Central New York showdown in the Carrier Dome this evening, the 97th meeting between the two schools.  The Kraus-Simmons Trophy is on the line (which I can only assume is two human heads glued to a lacrosse stick), and the Orange is ready for the Statesmen's best shot:

“It’s bragging rights in Central New York,” he said. “They don’t qualify for the playoffs, so this is their national championship game. It seems like we see that every week, and we expect nothing else (from Hobart).”

What SU expects to see is the same kind off strategy most teams have employed against it this season – zone defense and slow-down offense. Hobart has an asset at the faceoff X to potentially do it better than others. Bobby Datillo is winning a lofty 65.8 percent of his draws, giving his team two possessions for every one it loses.

“I’m sure the game plan is for them to win the faceoffs and control the ball offensively, try to frustrate us like other teams have done,” Desko said. “We just have to roll up our sleeves and play smart.”

Desko and Dave Rahme are barking up the right tree: Hobart, as much as anyone, needs to dominate possession-play in order to find success.  This sounds like a job for . . . a data table!

HOBART: NO FISH TONIGHT 
METRIC VALUE RANK AVG.
Pace 69.36 22 66.98
Offensive Possessions/Game 36.36 9 33.47
Defensive Possessions/Game 33.00 28 33.51
Possession Margin/Game 3.36 14 -0.03
Face-off Percentage 66.24 2 50.00
Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 23.91 50 28.06
Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 28.72 41 27.79
Adjusted Efficiency Margin -4.81 51 0.27
Offensive Shots/Possession 0.97 41 1.00
Defensive Shots/Possession 1.11 54 1.00
Offensive Effective Shooting Percentage 24.07% 53 28.77%
Defensive Effective Shooting Percentage 28.00% 23 28.75%
Offensive Assist Rate 15.50 34 15.39
Defensive Assist Rate 17.36 46 15.27
Strength of Schedule -- Opposing Offenses 29.43 8 28.05
Strength of Schedule -- Opposing Defenses 26.23 4 27.85
Strength of Schedule -- Efficiency Margin 3.19 6 0.20

The bolded stuff here is important.  As you can see, Hobart hasn't exactly distinguished itself as an offensive or defensive power.  Where Hobart makes hay is controlling possessions, namely, getting more offensive possessions per game than their opponents.  When they do that, they effectively:

  1. Limit their defensive exposure by simply reducing opposing offenses from having an opportunity to score (DERP!); and
  2. Allow their offense to eventually get around to scoring.

The focus, for me at least, is the relationship between number of offensive possessions, Hobart's offensive effective shooting percentage, and their offensive assist rate.  This is a team that doesn't shoot a lot in an offensive possession, and when they shoot, it isn't going in very often.  A big piece of that is because the Statesmen don't share the ball all that much.  This puts a premium on guys like Sam Miller, Chris Pedersen, and Tim Bigelow to score on their own.

Syracuse will obviously need to worry about this.

It's also a minor miracle that Hobart is hanging around .500 with the schedule they've played and how they've produced on the field. This is a team can bite Syracuse if the Orange aren't ready.

Let's set some keys:

  • Syracuse needs to try and get the face-off battle around 50 percent tonight.  If not, that Orange defense is going to be working a lot. There's a statistical issue with Hobart regarding saves per possession (both offensive and defensive) that I didn't list above.  Galloway may not need to make a ton of stops, but he's going to have to keep his focus as Hobart will likely have the bean a bunch.
  • The Orange can keep working that offense tonight.  Hobart isn't as bad defensively as Providence, but it's still an area of the game that keeps the Statesmen in the bottom-third of the country.  The focus here is on Hobart's defensive assist rate. JoJo Marasco and Tommy Hopkins should have opportunities to distribute, even when Hobart packs it in between the hashes and on goal line extended.
  • Cross your fingers that Hobart's goalie -- Even Kirk -- has a rough night.  He's save percentage is right around 52 percent this season, but the Statesmen defense really relies on him to end defensive possessions. About 34.5 of every 100 Hobart defensive possessions end with a Kirk save.  That's 10th most nationally.  If he gets hot, look out.
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